Saturday, March 10, 2012


Lately, movies have been making me sick. No, not because of the caliber of them, though 2011 was not a banner year, but because of the preponderance of handheld, shaky camera cinematography. 3-D isn’t going to take over the movies. Nor HD. Instead it’s going to be the look of homemade, handheld video cameras.  I never realized how many headaches I’d be suffering just from trying to watch a movie these days.

Dane DeHaan in CHRONICLE

These types of movies are everywhere at the Cineplex now. This year we’ve already suffered the handheld treatment in everything from THE DEVIL INSIDE to CHRONICLE to PROJECT X, and it’s only March. The camera work in these movies is so damn unstable and erratic that it makes me feel like I’m watching from the deck of a cruise ship during choppy seas. I know that films need to grab audiences but throttling them with this in-your-face cinematic style is getting ridiculous.

It's a trend being driven by cost too. Movies cost so much to make, with average marketing costs exceeding 20 million per big studio release. You can understand why studio execs are thrilled that more and more filmmakers are developing scripts that are supposed to look 'homemade' and cheap.
Oliver Cooper, Thomas Mann and Jonathan Daniel Brown in PROJECT X

It's like suddenly the gold standard is, of all things, YouTube. We've all gotten used to crappy looking viral videos, why shouldn't Hollywood just follow suit? Well, for starters, I'm not paying 12 bucks a pop to watch YouTube. And also, shouldn't the professional world of entertainment strive for a higher standard than something any teen can cut together on his Mac's Final Edit program at home?

Blame THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT for all this havoc. That 1999 sleeper horror hit about three film students making a documentary and stumble upon a dangerous occult paved the way for crude, amateurishly shot docu-style films as a norm. And movies like the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise followed and made gazillions and now the 'found footage' genre is here to stay. Sadly.

A movie like PROJECT X about a high school kegger run amuck, was probably pitched to Hollywood executives as “SUPER BAD, only homemade.” Rather than striving for the impeccable ideals and craftsmanship of a Martin Scorsese or David Fincher, filmmakers now are aiming no higher than AMERICA’S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS. Might as well give Daniel Tosh the reins at Paramount or Universal.
And does anyone out there buy that these films are ‘real’? That these films are actually 'found footage'? Do the marketers think we’re that dumb? It’s the same kind of bad lie that Doritos trots out every Super Bowl, telling us that their commercials were shot for less than 20 grand. Who’s naive enough to believe that any commercial with a professional sound mix and color transfer to meet network specifications could be done so cheaply? Maybe the Doritos execs but few others.

All I know is that as a film fan, the 'found footage' genre looks like crap and seems utterly lazy. They're a ruse, both in the way they try to pass themselves off as documentaries, and in the way they try to pass themselves off as films. And they give me a headache and make me nauseous. I sure hope they start stocking Excedrin at the concession stand soon.


  1. When Style gets in the way of Story I get a headache too (maybe more of a heartache actually). Shaky cell phone video may be today's fad but if you look back you'll see that the urge to copy Style from someone who took a risk being the first with a particular look is as old as Hollywood. Desaturated color? The Future is Grungy? Computer generated armies?
    Tell a great story. And be confident enough to create your own look.

  2. I am so f*cking sick of this genre. It's proof that one doesn't need to be talented to make a lot of money in this industry.

  3. So right you are, McDave! Style over substance is always a bad precedent.

  4. Jeremy, I couldn't agree with you more. I'm so over this style. It's nauseating on so many levels!